A famous vacation place among tourists due to its comfortable year-round climate, beautiful parks and gardens, as well as its convenient location within the country. This state capital comes to life on weekends, where local life is combined with the presence of the floating population that comes, mostly, from Mexico City. It's also home to many foreign people who come to learn Spanish, and most young people will have a fairly big understanding of English because of this. Be prepared for many micro-climates inside the city and surroundings, where there have been variations of up to 10ºC in less than a 8km radius; while the lower zones can have very humid weather, the northern forest area will most certainly be cold by night.
The heart of the city is the central plaza and palace. Each night of the week you can enjoy dancers, musicians, acrobats and a lot of locals who use the plaza both by day and night as a place to hang out, meet friends and be entertained by many local artists and entertainers. The square and adjacent area is full of street vendors selling everything from beed work to maize on a stick and tacos.
Getting to Cuernavaca is fairly easy but beware the traffic in the Mexico-Cuernavaca-Acapulco tollway on Friday and Sunday afternoons. Many visitors tend to travel those days and you might spend more than 2 hours on the road. Plan accordingly or choose other days for your travelling.
Viva Aerobus has started offering very cheap tickets, around $45USD, when flying from Tijuana or Monterrey, though the airport is not that close to Cuernavaca. Expect to pay around $25.00 USD for the taxi to Cuernavaca's central square.
Buses cover most of the city and surrounding areas and cost about $6.50 pesos per trip. These are not particularly comfortable, but are relatively safe and regularly used by the many foreign language students in the city. Alternatively, there are many taxis which can be hailed on the street or ordered by phone or board them at base stations. One of the largest radio taxi firm in Cuernavaca is Citlali, and all radio taxis are safe, independent taxis are slightly more risky because of low maintenance. Taxis in Cuernavaca do not have meters and prices need to be arranged before getting in the taxi. Most destinations during the day will not cost you more than $45 pesos. At night prices sky-rocket (double) and trying to get a taxi in the early hours of the morning will often cost substantially more. Try and get some idea of how much a trip will cost from locals beforehand. Once you get an idea of the prices you will be able to haggle and bring them down to reasonable fares.
Cuernavaca has many local and nearby tourist attractions. Water parks are very popular and range from basic water holes such as "Las Huertas" with thermal waters, natural rivers as "Las Estacas" and large, multi-facility parks as "El Rollo." You may also camp in many parks some of which feature other sevices such as hot baths, cabins and restaurants. About 10 miles south of the city is Xochicalco, a large, beautiful and well-restored archeological site. The nearby Tepozteco mountains and the village of Tepoztlan are very popular destinations for locals and tourists with attractions that include a XVI century Dominican convent, museum, many restaurants and handicrafts. Cuernavaca has a number of language schools where you may enroll in intensive Spanish language study.
Also only in season (check to see if it is available) is Rafting at the Amacuzac River with class III & IV white water rapids operated by Raft Mexico - Plaza Dafne, Av. Morelos Sur #1602 int 8, Col. Chipitlan, Cuernavaca Tel. (777) 3 22 6555 and 01 800 728 4312 [Raft Mexico Home Page: http://www.raftmexico.com]
Cuernavaca is a major center for study abroad students from around the world studying Spanish. Excellent schools are plentiful throughout the city.
To one side of the Palacio de Cortés is a market selling a variety of Mexican souvenirs. Among the cheap souvenirs aimed at tourists there are some pleasant items to take home with you.
Opened in October November 2005 this mall, just off the motorway, contains a variety of shops, restaurants and a cinema and is proving popular and is often very busy.
On Plan de Ayala this open air mall is still going strong and has a variety of shops and restaurants.
If you are looking for a true Mexican meal be sure to try tacos where the locals eat them. Important to remember that not all taquerias are particularly hygienic. Try the calle de los tacos (street of tacos), Nueva Inglaterra. This street is lined with taquerias with Grano del Oro being particularly good. On Plan d'Ayala try the tacos at Los Orientales or have a torta (sandwich) at La Cubana. La Princesa has two locations on Teopanzolco plus a location within Plaza Cuernavaca and one near the village of Parres close to Mision del Sol and Camino Real Sumiya. A taco al Pastor (pork) will cost between $3 and $8 pesos.
Pozole is a rich broth with meat, corn, and other vegetables. Pozolería El Barco, one block away from the cathedral, serves very good green pozole (with pipián sauce). Try their tostadas de pata as well (crispy tortillas topped with pickled pig's feet).
The center of town has some excellent restaurants. Las Mañanitas is a Relais & Chateaux hotel with excellent if somewhat dated cuisine on a menu that never changes. Famous for its large garden with free-roaming peacocks and other large birds, Las Mañanitas is well worth a visit for cocktails or a meal. On the main square facing the Palacio de Cortes is Casa Hidalgo also serving excellent food. These restaurants serve a variety of dishes consisting of traditional Mexican and international fare. Trattoria Marco Polo, across the street from the cathedral, serves good Italian food and pizza. For about $60 US, Marco Polo offers a very large pizza (about 3 feet wide) loaded with everything. Definitely not something would find in Italy, it is however a sight to see and excellent to try if you are eating with a large group there. El Faisan on Emiliano Zapata is another excellent high-end restaurant featuring Yucatecan food that is worthwhile visiting when in Cuernavaca. La Provence in a boutique hotel of the same name a short distance south of the zocolo is Cuernavaca's leading French restaurant.
In the downtown 30m down the street Calle Fray Bart De Las Casas from Plazuela del Zacate, on the right hand side on corner, there is a small nameless place with open grill that has indescribably delicious arrachera and tortas/hamburguesas. $135 for arrachera as of March 2011. For the best hamburgers in town, however, you'll need to go to either La Casa de Hamburguesa on Teopanzolco (inexpensive) or Meson Gaucho (expensive), on Domingo Diez across from Cuernavaca's only Walmart store, which features Argentine steaks in addition to the great burgers.
Los Arcos on the Zocalo is popular on Tuesdays when students converge on the open bar/cafe with live salsa music and cheap drink. For a more sophisticated evening try Reposado with its comfortable lounge beds in a beach-style setting with a restaurant on the ground level. [REPOSADO IS NOW CLOSED] La Bola is a typical Mexican cantina with live Norteno and Mariachi music every night between 7 and 10pm. 2 for one promotions daily between 2 and 9pm and very cheap food/drink packages. On average $400 pesos buys a generous plate of food for the table to share and a bottle of alcohol or 20 bottles of beer. Nachos is another example of a cantina famous for its very large glasses also try Clamatoria. [As of March 2011 Nachos had quit] La Taurina and Crudalia are very simple bars that sell cheap booze by the litre. Expect plastic tables and chairs and very few frills but a good atmosphere.
On the weekends an influx of visitors arrive in Cuernavaca from Mexico City and head to the night clubs. El Alebrije is a chain of nightlubs with a branch in Cuernavaca. It is frequented primarily by a wealthy and young crowd. Cover is $100 pesos with prices for bottles starting at $700 pesos. The door staff at high-end clubs are often quite difficult. Men arriving without female companionship at a club will generally have trouble getting although foreigners are often given preference. Alebrije is open on Fridays and Saturdays, doors open at 10pm. Barbazul is a large indoor/outdoor venue with a cf $100 after midnight. Like Alebrije it is frequented by a young and wealthy crowd and many foreigners. Taizz is is the highest end club with a cover of $200 pesos. As with the previous two it is frequented by a similar crowd. All the clubs have valet parking and taxis outside, however these tend to charge a lot. Bottle prices are generally the same in the 3 venues. It is usual to order a bottle and occupy a table and few people buy individual drinks at the bar. Tipping the waiter is essential and problems may arise if the waiter feels he has been undertipped - 10% is the accepted amount. These three clubs play an eclectic mix of music from 80's Mexican music to American Hip Hop. Mambo cafe is open Wednesday to Saturday with Salsa sance classes on Wednesdays between 6 and 9pm. The most popular night for Mambo cafe is Thursday when it is often very full. The Store is a new club and very different from the first three. Very basic the club has no waiters and is self service from the bar. It is popular and well attended. In all the clubs either inside the grounds or directly outside are stalls selling hotdogs and hamburgers and tacos are never far away. Most clubs close their doors at 3am and do not allow access after this hour. However it is usual for the last person to leave the clubs at around 5 or 6am. In most clubs in Cuernavaca women do not pay cover.
If you are in Cuernavaca, you can stay for example in the
Cuernavacas budget hotel row is in Calle Aragon y Leon. There are several inexpensive casas de huespedes:
All rooms with Private bathroom free WiFi, parking, barbacue area, swimming pool, 15 minutes walking from main plaza IDEL Hostel Home page
Taxco, the famous silver town, is about 30 minutes drive outside Cuernavaca. This town used to survive on silver mining, now it survives on the tourist industry with almost everybody involved. Taxco is full of silver shops and a very large silver market. Silver is often sold by weight in the markets, be sure it carries the .925 stamp and is not silver plated. On Saturdays, from about 8:00am until noon or so, the silver vendors of Taxco sell silver jewelry and other silver wares in a "flea market" that snakes around the city under canopies for a mile or so. It's the SAME silver you'd buy at full price on all other days of the week, but on Saturdays it's sold at a considerable discount. Get there early! One bus leaves daily for Taxco from Cuernavaca in the mornings and returns around 4:00pm. Don't miss it, or you'll miss either the silver "flea market" or your ride back to Cuernavaca. Bring a toothbrush in case . . . .
Tepoztlan is about 15 minutes outside Cuernavaca and very pleasant to visit particularly on market day. A must-see is the Tepoztec pyramid at the end of a rather long and steep walk up a mountain but the reward is well worth it.
Xochicalco is about an hour from Cuernavaca and is the 4th most visited arqueological site in Mexico. An early visit is recommended so as to not get too sunburnt, be sure to enter the observatory